Welcome to the wonderful world of Canine Assistants! My name is Jennifer Arnold, and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization which teaches and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager, and I spent two years using a wheelchair. It was an incredibly difficult time. I believe that I may well have set a record for saying “please,” “thank you,” and most of all, “I’m so sorry to bother you!” I felt isolated and very much alone. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know what kind or how to get it.
My father, a physician in Atlanta, heard about an organization in California that trained service dogs to help people in wheelchairs. The California program had a very long waiting list and worked mainly with those on the West Coast, so my dad decided to start such a program in Georgia. Three weeks after the first planning meeting for Canine Assistants, my father was hit and killed by a drunk driver while he was walking on the sidewalk around a park. It took my mother and me ten years of hard work and dedication to open our program. We finally realized our dream in 1991.
This organization means the world to me, and I fully understand the needs and concerns of others with physical disabilities and special needs. I understand the little boy with muscular dystrophy who won’t go to school in his wheelchair because he feels different from the other children. I understand the terror of the young man, a quadriplegic from a diving accident, who must spend hours alone in his home because insurance won’t pay for a full time attendant. I understand the urgency in the voice of the young girl who has cerebral palsy when she begs us to hurry and provide a dog for her because she does not want to be alone anymore. I understand and I know what to do about it, but I need your help!
I hope with all my heart that you will be inspired by our dogs and recipients! Our dogs have so much love to give, and our goal is to help as many people as possible. The power of unconditional love and acceptance is truly a wondrous thing. I wish it for us all!